The Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All, CSACEFA, has identified sexual molestation and arbitrary fees as major reasons inhibiting girl-child education.
The group said this was part of its findings following interactions and visits to some communities in Enugu State.
Enugu State Coordinator of CSACEFA, Mr. Tobenna Agujiobi made the disclosure during a town hall meeting involving some Enugu communities, the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board, ENSUBEB, and members of the civil society.
Some parents, while making presentations, lamented that despite the government free-education policy, school authorities were still collecting as high as N6000 before they admitted their children into primary schools.
Agujiobi corroborated the claims of the parents, noting that they got similar claims during their visits.
He said, “We have been moving round the community to speak on the challenges facing girl-child education.
“The project is being supported by MALALA fund, a global fund mapped out for the improvement and support of the girl-child education, it came to Nigeria and is being implemented here.
“We want to make sure that the voice of the girl-child is being heard, there are radical challenges to the girl-child, who is the most gendered in the society.
“In most families, you find out that they will prefer to send the boy-child to school before the girl-child, this we say, let there be equity and fairness, she did not create herself to be a girl and there is no crime to be a girl, it is something of delight to be a girl, we all came through a woman. So, we need to empower the girl child educationally and otherwise.
“There is an existing free education policy, nine years of free education. We are soliciting for 12 years free education for the girl-child, our goal is education for all and it is being threatened in the sense that when you go to the communities, we keep on hearing the same issues- extortion by the school administration.
“There is free tuition, but if you calculate all they are asked to pay in a term, it is more costly than the tuition. Then you ask yourself- what is free in the education? How does it benefit the rural dwellers? How does it benefit the common man in the street? That’s why we still see children hawking, parents cannot cope with these levies- graduation levy, broom levy, and all that, it makes it difficult to access education because each pupil spends between N6,000 to N7,000 per term.
“We also found out that the girl-child absconds from school because of sexual molestation, some of them eventually get pregnant and drop from the school, and you know the challenges they undergo for having unwanted pregnancies, it is next to a taboo in this part of the world, just like having committed murder. The child will be faced with stigma for ages, dejected whereas the boy who did the act will remain in school.
There is the issue of ‘go and get married, you are a girl’, it is embedded in our mindset and we must have to do something about it,” he further stated.
Agujiobi said the coalition was collaborating with the Enugu State House of Assembly Committee on education, as well as the ENSUBEB towards addressing most of the identified problems.
He urged the government to make an independent assessment of the claims by parents against school authorities.
In her remark, the secretary of CSACEFA, Florence Ifeanyi-Aneke said access to education was very vital towards the development of any society.
“In that regard, since the government said that education is free, nobody will be allowed to sabotage it. That is why we have brought you here to lay your complaint before the government representatives,” she told the parents.
Earlier, the representative of the ENSUBEB at the event, Mrs. Uwaonu Cecilia said the claims made by some of the parents, which border on extortion, would be investigated.
“This government has made it clear that education is free, and it will not allow anyone to sabotage that policy,” she assured.